Thoughts on Engineering, Photography, and Design.

Hey, I'm Ryan Heath. I design & develop things for a living and play with cameras for fun. This is where I share my thoughts on all of that — and probably more — along the way.

Shooting Film: Bessa R2A

There was a time when I simply could not understand what the appeal was when it came to film photography. It always intrigued me, but I was never certain that I had the patience for it and the overall process just felt so… pointless? But here I am. Years later, I have a different perspective. I recently picked up a 20+ year old, used film camera.


Voigtlander Bessa R2 w/ 35mm Nokton Classic f/1.4 II

Right off, this camera is beautiful! And if you know me, I can’t dare use a camera that doesn’t align with my aesthetic tastes.

I’m not a product review kinda guy, but it’s worth noting a few things that make this camera special:

  • The largest framelines are 35mm, which is what I plan on shooting with this camera.
  • I shoot aperture priority, which this camera has! (along with +/- 2 stop exposure compensation)
  • The rangefinder patch is excellent, despite the camera being old-ish.
  • It’s a M-mount, so I can use my existing VM lenses.

There’s a bit of anxiety that comes along with shooting film, but it does seem to make you hone in on what you’re doing because you can’t make “test exposures” to verify anything. If you over expose a scene on purpose, you won’t know if you blew those highlights until you get the film back. You’re forced to understand how different films react to light and be a lot more intentional up front, which I (so far) am enjoying.

Another thing I didn’t really think about: you sort of choose your “edit” up front. Sure, you can make small adjustments to the scans in post-processing, but for the most part, you’re choosing your colors, contrast, and overall feel up front before you head out with your camera. That’s kinda cool and very different for me.

We’ll see how this whole thing plays out. I’m still a digital shooter at heart (if nothing else because of the cost of film, sheesh), but I will say, the feeling I get when cranking the film advance after every shot is pretty addicting.

Anyway, I find that hobbies—including photography—require you to “keep it fresh” to stay motivated and inspired. Right now, for me, that’s the Bessa R2A. Wish me luck!